We are now selling on Amazon! But I have to say the journey was a long, hard two months! Here are my lessons learned, so hopefully other entrepreneurs can benefit.
I found signing up to be a seller on Amazon very easy, but it was using the Add a Product tool that was cumbersome and not the best user interface, in my opinion. I spent hours trying to get through all the pages with someone from Amazon on the phone with me. The foreign call center people seemed to answer questions other than the one I was asking, and put me on hold a lot. It took a long time to load pages or get around not having a UPC code. I had to come up with other unique qualifiers that the system didn’t accept. I went in circles.
Whenever, I meet THAT much resistance and get so mad that I nearly want to cry, I remind myself that there is another path to take. When life gives you a lot of resistance, go a different way. Find another route. Or at least STOP. At the same time I am getting no where adding a product to Amazon, my printers are not working and my tablet-pc and laptop won’t even talk to the BRAND NEW printer I just purchased. I couldn’t get printer drivers to download even in 20 minutes, and they are usually pretty small files. There was definitely a black cloud with a message hanging over me, but what was the message?
“Double check your internet service and speeds!” A friend in the IT industry who was listening to my woes felt that in the background of all my problems, like getting product pictures uploaded to Amazon and getting all my devices to communicate, I needed to check my internet service. He advised speedtest.net. It is free and fast. I was getting download speeds of 1.4 mb/s and upload of 1.3 mb/s. I thought I had high speed internet with my condo association deal, but I was not. I thought I had a reasonable package, but I did not. The company I was using was not capable of delivering anything faster, so I searched for other services that had cabling in my building, and got a simple home package of 50 mb/s. While there are plenty of even faster packages, this has been such a dramatic upgrade! Moving through the Amazon tool was much faster, and I got the benefit of wireless printing through the new modem. I was able to upload drivers and get all my devices talking to each other. In my journey to getting on Amazon, I learned what I didn’t know — that it was time to upgrade my internet to do better business. I carried that theme forward into a few other areas, too. I upgraded some other services and devices to make sure doing business and my life were set up for success.
The second piece I took a look at was my belief that it was a long process to get a UPC code. I kept going in circles with Amazon trying to identify my product with a number. They do offer you other options, but they require approvals, waiting, and I still got declined. So I researched getting UPC bar codes again. What was I thinking?! It is really easy to get a UPC code where you don’t even have to register your product information. You just buy that unique code, and get certificates and files. I used speedybarcodes.com. Within minutes, and for very little money, I had a unique bar code, with appropriate documentation. They even offered to print labels for a small fee. While larger companies buy their own bar code label makers, this service was great as a little start up business just to get going. I wish someone at the Amazon customer service center had just told me this! “It is far less hassle to Add a Product if you have a UPC number/bar code, Miss Pamela, and it is really easy to do.” I guess life wanted me to learn on my own.
Another unique difficulty for She*Pak is being a product in the Health and Wellness category. Entrepreneurs should allow for more time if your product falls into this category. What’s great to know as a buyer on Amazon is that these extra steps for approval ensures that products sold in this category go through extra rigor, making sure that products are clean, safe, and legitimate. For She*Pak it took about two weeks for approval. One of the extra steps I had to do was upload copies to Amazon of invoices from my vendors that I used to make the device and do business thus far. At this point I hadn’t gotten my scanner/printer/fax working yet, so there was a little extra fun involved.
My final insight to share is the most difficult for me. I am the person that wants to do the right thing by people, and not get people in trouble or be mean. My experience with the foreign call center with Amazon was that I could get a great representative on the phone, or a not so great one. Some of the not so great ones had excellent, polite, polished statements ready to say to me, but didn’t seem to understand my questions. I am embarrassed, admitting to my anger, but when I get an answer that seems totally out of context to my question, I get really frustrated. “Aren’t you listening to me?” It somehow feels like a tactic to put me off, when it is probably just a language comprehension issue. After being on the phone for about 90 minutes with one person, I just hung up. I said to myself, “She wins.” I went to the gym crying and with a short fuse. I pounded the stairs and threw a bunch of weights around. I felt better, but then I got sage advice from a buddy there. Many of you would have the personality to do this sooner than I, but I got coaching that in those not so great calls, to just ask for a supervisor, or someone from the United States who will understand my version of English better. This is out of my comfort zone because then it might say that I have prejudices or not be ethnically tolerant. I love people, different cultures, and diversity, but I decided to look at it as the person on the other end of the call just hasn’t had a level of training and development that can serve me at this time. Don’t be like me and feel like you are stuck with the person you got. Get someone else, politely, but don’t wait to get as mad as I did. It serves no one to feel trapped and to waste time.
Once I got my internet service upgraded, my technology working, and my UPC code, I had a lovely person from Amazon stay on the phone with me until my Add a Product information was accepted. The next few days I learned how to ship product to Amazon, which shipments centers they want me to use, and how many She*Paks they wanted going to each center. She*Pak is now available for sale on Amazon! Just search “shepak.”
Other entrepreneurs know this better than I: We don’t have the luxury of wasting time blaming others, because we have to create results. Creating results means creating solutions. When I met all the resistance, I had to ask, “Where am I responsible? What do I need to look at? What might I be doing or believing wrongly?” It’s not to say that Amazon shouldn’t have done better, but I don’t have control over them, and they don’t have to report to my investors. I have control over me. And guess what, I did need to do better, and to do things differently!